ESL Learning Comparative Analysis of Term Paper

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e., verbal intelligence), regardless of the communicator's cultural background. His attempt to quantify competence is an example of how, holding all other things equal (such as cultural factors influential to language learning and development), competence can still be ascertained objectively and in the context of the specific language being taught or learned.

From Stubbs' perspective, Marcella's competence becomes an important issue. As an ESL student, Marcella's competence is ascertained on the vocabulary she knows and her usage of the English vocabulary in recollecting a story as a language learning activity. Most noticeable in Marcella's communication was her use of "then" to signal continuity in her narrative, or to demonstrate a series of actions she depicted in her recollection. The lack of other words to substitute "then" as a marker of continuity in the narrative signifies her incompetence as a communicator of the English language, primarily because she lacked the knowledge of other English words that can be substituted or act as replacement to the connector "then."

In addition, using the word "m-ah-k" ("make") in the phrase, "m-ah-k back on the top" can be interpreted as 'climb back to the top,' in Marcella's narrative. The use of "make" instead of "climb" is another sign of her linguistic incompetence, because she was unable to use the appropriate English word to complete the thought in the story she was trying to recollect and recreate. Thirdly, using "braves" instead of "waves" gives a whole new meaning to the narrative, a communication confusion that the reader would eventually understand, if s/he applies the use of the word in the context of the narrative.

In effect, Marcella's communication incompetence is marked by her wrong word choice, limited knowledge of the English vocabulary, and inability to achieve cohesion in her narrative/story. Stubbs' analysis points to these factors as the determinants of her communication incompetence, these very factors that are considered irrelevant, initially, when applied to Chomskyan linguistics. From this analysis of Stubbs' view of communication competence, it becomes apparent that Chomsky and Stubbs operate under different methods and theoretical views when discussing communication competence as it relates to the critical perspective (i.e., critical discourse analysis).

M. Halliday & R. Hasan: Communication competence and social relations

Looking into the meaning of texts and language as a communication tool, Halliday and Hasan how meanings are generated in second language acquisition, a situation appropriate to the ESL context applied in Marcella's case. In the previous sections, contrasting forms of analysis became apparent with Chomsky's and Stubb's linguistic theories and concepts. Chomsky assumed a more conciliatory tone in his explication of the dynamics surrounding ESL learning and communication competence, while Stubbs provided a quantitative and more defined measure of ascertaining communication competence (i.e., in relation to verbal intelligence).

Halliday and Hasan's analysis is linked with Chomsky because of the pragmatic manner in which the former tried to explain communication competence and its influence on the interaction of the communicators. While the linguists considered communication competence as extant and one of the underlying processes governing language use, and that there is power relations created from communicating, they took into consideration to account for both sides of the power relations/conflict that emerges from a specific communication/interaction process.

Vital to the linguists' discussion of competence is the context in which communication and social interaction occur. To provide an appropriate and correct interpretation of an interaction between communicators, linguists must be able to understand the role that communicators take or assume in the process of interacting with each other. Halliday and Hasan consider communication competence as a function of culture -- that is, creating meanings from discourse requires a knowledge of the context or situation from which the discourse was developed. More than just creating meaning from context, they also looked into communication as it happens between the communicators, and how this interaction or exchange is viewed generally (i.e., against social norms). The linguists posit that, "context in terms of social norms... 'is not to side with the group wielding power any more than to describe working class dialects is to bring about a social revolution...The recognition of norms would be misleading if...a scholar chose to ignore the presence of conflicting norms" (Young, 1992:66).

Looking into Marcella's narrative highlights this important insight by Halliday and Hasan. As previously mentioned in the preceding section, Marcella's use of the word "braves," rather than "waves," can create confusion to the other communicator when expressed. However, communication roles are assumed in the process of understanding her narrative: as the listener of the story, the other communicator seeks to understand the meaning of "braves" in the context of Marcella's story. Though this is the ideal situation -- that is, the other communicator would seek understanding in making sense of Marcella's story -- there will be cases in which she may not be understood by other listeners/communicators, and at the worst, being labeled as incompetent as a communicator because of her wrong word choice and usage. Power relations (conflict) emerges when this happens, wherein the other communicator, more knowledgeable of the English language, fails to understand the context in which Marcella's story is applied, thereby generating confusion and ineffective communication between Marcella and the communicator.


Chomsky, N. And M. Halle. (1991). The sound pattern of English. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Smith, N. (1999). Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals. NY: Cambridge UP.

Stubbs, M. (1986). "Language development, lexical competence, and nuclear vocabulary." In K. Durkin (ed.). Language development in the school years. (1986). Blackwell.

Young, R. (1992).…[continue]

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